Meet a Member: Shelley Hopkins


Meet a Member: Shelley Hopkins

(Editor's Note: We're proud to feature Shelley (aka @hussy) in the debut article of our new feature, Meet a Member. On a regular basis, we'll introduce you to a member of our wonderful community. Not a member yet? Create your free account and join us.)

New family caregivers, observes Shelley Hopkins, may often feel as they’ve been hired for jobs for which they are totally unqualified.

Her first caree was her mom; Shelley supported her dad, the primary caregiver, until her mother died of colon cancer in 2009.

Then Shelley’s husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2013.

Shelley initially recalls feeling as if she was studying for a medical degree. After all, what did she know about cancer protocols, changing a colostomy bag or competently managing “an arsenal of meds?”

Nothing, at first. But she learned.

Along the way Shelley realized that necessity is not only the mother of invention; it forces you to call on internal resources you may not have known you had. And Shelley ended up surprising herself.

After her husband’s diagnosis, she was a “hot mess.” “I totally broke down crying,” Shelley remembers. “And I thought, ‘ I just don’t know if I can do this.’

“And then something happened: my back was against the wall and I just didn’t have a choice. Seeing my husband’s fear and anxiety just made me to be calm and strong for him.”

And along with a “reserve of strength” she never knew she had, Shelley learned to be gentle with herself in the face of an indisputably steep learning curve.

“Bottom line,” Shelley advises new family caregivers, “cut yourself some slack, and accept that you can’t learn it all in one day or one week or even one month. And that’s OK, because over time, you will eventually learn everything you need to know.”

One of the family pets that Shelley considers "good medicine." One of the family pets that Shelley considers "good medicine."

Most important is support for life on a “24-7 hamster wheel-of-stress,” as Shelley puts it.

“I was getting burned out,” she says. “You just never stop.”

While Shelley initially tried to find an in-person support group, she quickly realized that was not going to be the answer. “The groups I did find only met once a month, and it’s just not possible for me to say with any degree of certainty that I’d always be available. Are you kidding? I don’t know where I’ll be later this afternoon.”

She values the flexibility of the virtual community she’s found at “We’re all on different schedules,” Shelley says, and “we have to grab our five minutes whenever we can. We can all do this on our schedules and yet still come together as a community.”

And even laugh a bit with people who know exactly what you’re going through. Because while they may never have met you, they know exactly what you’re going through.

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Hi Shelley! God Bless you today!


Hi Marianne--I just love this profile!! I am so taken with <a href='' rel=\"nofollow\">@hussy</a>, who's kindness and compassion has really touched me. She gives so much to our community and when I learn more about her day, I'm more impressed by all she does. She's a treasure.\r\n\r\n(And all this reminds me that we should do a little Meet and Greet with you, Mar, in a blog post so our community can get to know you, as well.)